Friday, after announcing plans to visit the Golden State and survey affected areas, Trump told Fox News the fires had something to do with raking, and when asked about the purpose of his trip, the president he was going “just to see the firefighters.”
On Saturday, standing alongside Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a reporter asked Trump about preventing future fire catastrophes. The president responded:
“We have been talking about that on the ride over. I think we’re all on the same path. We have to do management, maintenance, and we will be working also with environmental groups. I think everybody has seen the light. […]
“We have to take care of the floors, the floors of the forest. It is very important. You look at other countries, they do it definitely and it is a whole different story. I was with the president of Finland and he said, ‘We’re a forest nation.’ He called it a ‘forest nation.’ And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it is a very small problem.”
In case that weren’t quite enough, speaking soon after at an Incident Command Post briefing, Trump was asked, “Does seeing this devastation … change your opinion at all on climate change, Mr. President?” He replied, “No. No. I have a strong opinion. I want great climate.”
Trump is under the mistaken impression that his “opinion” about climate science is relevant.
He also doesn’t seem at all interested in the fact that forest management isn’t to blame. As the Associated Press reported last week:
One reason that scientists know that management isn’t to blame is that some areas now burning had fires in 2005 and 2008, so they aren’t “fuel-choked closed-canopy forests,” Dennison said.
In those earlier fires, Paradise was threatened but escaped major damage, he said. In the current blazes, it was virtually destroyed.
The other major fire, in Southern California, burned through shrub land, not forest, [University of Utah fire scientist Philip Dennison] said. “It’s not about forest management. These aren’t forests,” he said.
The dean of the University of Michigan’s environmental school, Jonathan Overpeck, said Western fires are getting bigger and more severe. He said it “is much less due to bad management and is instead the result of our baking of our forests, woodlands and grasslands with ever-worsening climate change.”
All he had to do was go to California, express sympathy, and pledge support. Instead we can add this to the list of crises and disasters Trump has tried, and failed, to address responsibility.
Postscript: During his visit to Paradise, California, the president managed to get the community’s name wrong – twice.